FAQ's

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General

Does SLS have real attorneys?

Yes. SLS has three full-time attorneys, licensed by the State Bar of Texas.

Do I have to pay for services?

No. Any student currently enrolled at Texas Tech University is eligible to receive services through this office free of charge. However, students are responsible for all court costs associated with filing their suit in court.

Can you help me sue a Texas Tech student or faculty member?

No. SLS cannot advise students against another TTU/HSC student, faculty or staff member, department or TTU/HSC as a whole. Should an issue of this nature arise, you should contact the Student Resolution Center at (806) 742-SAFE (7233).

What do you do for students?

SLS provides representation and/or consultation in the following areas: landlord/tenant disputes, uncontested divorces, uncontested family law matters, name changes, expunctions, orders of nondisclosure, essential needs licenses, auto/medical claims, entity formation/business start-up, consumer and civil matters, estate planning and contracts. SLS provides consultation only in the following areas: employment law, intellectual property, criminal law, child support, contested family law matters, medical malpractice, traffic tickets, cases outside of Lubbock County, and fee generating contingent matters. SLS also provides notary public services, mediation, and referrals to private attorneys and outside agencies.

Will Student Legal Services represent me in court?

SLS offers court representation in limited instances involving landlord tenant disputes, uncontested family law cases, some consumer issues, expunctions, orders of non-disclosure, essential needs licenses and probate of small estates.

Do I need an appointment to meet with an SLS attorney?

Yes. To ensure that the attorney you need is available you will need to schedule an appointment. For our appointment hours please refer to the "Contact Us" link.

Do I need an appointment for notary services & what form of ID is required?

SLS requests that appointments are made if you need more than three documents notarized & Texas law requires that you bring a U.S. Government issued photo ID (ex. State ID Card, Driver's License, U.S. Passport, Military issued ID Cards, USCIS issued ID Cards).

Auto

What do I do if I have an accident?

  1. STOP! Failure to stop can result in serious criminal consequences.
  2. Render Aid.
  3. Protect the scene from further damage.
  4. Contact the Police.
  5. Gather information and write it down.
  6. Be Careful what you say.
    Even if you feel you might be at fault, it is best to make no statements to anyone about who caused the accident. Certainly, you should cooperate with the police and answer questions about what occurred. You may learn later that the other driver was equally at fault, or more so.
  7. See a doctor if injured.
  8. Inform your insurance company promptly.

What do I do if I have been hit by a hit-and-run driver?

Contact the police department immediately to file a police report. Failure to file a report within 24 hours from the date of the incident may bar you from taking any legal action against the other party.

Can you get my traffic ticket dismissed?

No. SLS does not provide representation to students regarding traffic tickets.

My Texas Driver’s license has been suspended, now what?

You may qualify to petition the court for an occupational driver’s license that will allow you to drive to and from work and school. Your driving will be restricted to certain hours of the day, days of the week, and locations within the state of Texas. In order to obtain an occupational license, certain requirements must be met and fees must be paid. Please consult with one of the SLS attorneys regarding the specific facts of your case.

Can I return my car (What is the Lemon Law)?

Under the Texas "Lemon Law," a state law that helps consumers who buy or lease new motor vehicles and have repeated problems getting their vehicles properly repaired, a consumer can get the vehicle repurchased, replaced, or repaired (the relief available to used motor vehicle buyers is limited to repairs only, if the vehicle is still under the original factory warranty). The Lemon Law applies to new vehicles (including cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, motor homes, towable recreational vehicles (TRVs), and neighborhood electric vehicles) purchased or leased from a Texas licensed dealer or lessor that develop problems covered by a written factory warranty. Demonstrator vehicles are also considered new vehicles. The law does not cover used motor vehicles (including program vehicles), repossessed vehicles, non-travel trailers, boats or farm equipment. Neither does it cover vehicles with:

  • problems caused by owner's abuse, neglect or unauthorized changes to the vehicle,
  • parts or components not authorized or installed by the manufacturer or
  • problems that do not substantially affect the use or market value of the vehicle, like minor rattles or stereo problems.

Criminal

What should I do if my car is pulled over by a police officer?

Upon request, show them your driver's license and proof of insurance. In certain cases, your car can be searched without a warrant as long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search. If you are given a ticket, you should sign it. Otherwise, you can be arrested. You can always fight the case in court later. If you are suspected of drunk driving and refuse to take a blood, urine or breathalyzer test, your driver's license may be suspended. However, you have the right to refuse any of these tests.

How can I get my criminal arrest/history removed from my record?

There are two ways to prevent third parties from obtaining information regarding your criminal history and/or arrest. The first is to have the offense expunged from your criminal record. This process requires that all local, state and federal agencies destroy the arrest records, which may take up to one year. The second way to is to obtain an Order of Non-Disclosure. This prevents most third parties from obtaining the information, but criminal justice agencies and non-criminal justice agencies authorized by federal statute or executive order or by state statute to receive criminal history record information still have access to the records. Certain qualifications must be met in order to qualify for an expunction or order of non-disclosure. Please contact SLS to find out if you are eligible.

Consumer Credit

How do I obtain a copy of my credit report?

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) was signed into law in December 2003. The FACT Act, a revision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, allows consumers to get one free comprehensive disclosure of all of the information in their credit file from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months through a Central Source. For more information visit the following websites:

How can I clear up erroneous information on my credit report?

Under the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) and the organization that provided the information to the CRA, such as a bank or credit card company, have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under the law, contact both the CRA and the information provider. View a Sample Dispute Letter.

First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something like the Sample Credit Report Dispute Letter. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the CRA received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

CRAs must reinvestigate the items in question-usually within 30 days-unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so they can correct this information in your file.

  • Disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.
  • If your report contains erroneous information, the CRA must correct it.
  • If an item is incomplete, the CRA must complete it. For example, if your file showed that you were late making payments, but failed to show that you were no longer delinquent, the CRA must show that you're current.
  • If your file shows an account that belongs only to another person, the CRA must delete it.

When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.

Also, if you request, the CRA must send notices of corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. Job applicants can have a corrected copy of their report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes. If a reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports.

Second, in addition to writing to the CRA, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Again, include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider then reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if you are correct-that is, if the disputed information is not accurate-the information provider may not use it again.

What do I do if I think I am the victim of identity theft?

Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file:

Equifax
P: 800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian
P: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
P.O. Box 9530
Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union
P: 800-680-7289
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634

The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud alerts. Once the alert is placed, you may order a free copy of your credit report from all three major credit bureaus.

  1. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
  2. File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.
  3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps the FTC learn more about identity theft and the problems victims are having so that they can better assist you.

Visit the following Web sites for more detailed information:

How can I stop debt collectors from harassing me?

You can legally stop all harassing phone calls from the collection agencies by sending a cease and desist letter via certified mail to the collection agency requesting them to stop contacting you. Retain a copy of this letter for future reference. Once the collection agency receives this letter, they are required to stop communicating with you; they can only inform you about the actions that will be taken against you.

The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Texas Debt Collection Act (TDCA) prohibit debt collectors from engaging in certain conduct, and requires that debt collectors treat consumers fairly (relatively speaking).

These laws require collectors to provide consumers with written notice of the amount they believe the consumer owes, the name of the consumer's creditor and the action the consumer should take to dispute the debt.

The laws also prohibit collectors from:

  • using threats of violence or harm against the consumer, the consumer's property or the consumer's reputation; using obscene language or racial slurs; calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
  • making numerous, intentionally annoying calls;
  • calling a consumer at work - after he or she requests, in writing (see our Debt Collection Cease and Desist Letter in the Forms section), that the collector not do so;
  • disclosing the existence or amount of the alleged debt to third parties;
  • falsely implying that they are attorneys or government officials;
  • giving out false information about the consumer; or
  • making false threats of civil or criminal actions, including seizure.

Landlord/Tenant

When can the landlord keep my security deposit?

A landlord may not retain any portion of the security deposit to cover normal wear and tear. A landlord must provide a written description and itemized list of damages to the premises or such right to withhold any portion of the security deposit is forfeited. A landlord who fails either to return a security deposit or provide a written description and itemization of deductions on or before the 30th day after the date the tenant surrenders possession, where the tenant has complied with the proper move-out procedures and provided the tenant's forwarding address in writing, is presumed to have acted in bad faith. A landlord who retains a deposit in bad faith is liable for an amount equal to the sum of $100, three times the portion of the deposit wrongfully withheld, and the tenant's reasonable attorney's fees in a suit to recover the deposit. However, the landlord is not required to remit the deposit and/or itemized deduction if the tenant owes rent upon surrender or the tenant fails to comply with a thirty day notice of move out provision (if required by the lease). If you are seeking the return of your security deposit please see our move out notice/request for return of security deposit form.

How do I get my landlord to repair?

The Texas Property Code requires landlords to repair any problem that affects the health or safety of an ordinary tenant. A lease agreement may increase this responsibility to include a wider range of conditions. For this reason, one should always check the lease's specific provisions to determine what repairs have been agreed to by contract. Nevertheless, the Texas Property Code contains four basic requirements tenants must meet to demand repairs:

  1. The rent is current.
  2. The tenant (including all guests) didn't cause the damage.
  3. The landlord received written notice specifying the repairs to be made. In the case of an oral lease, oral notice may suffice, but it is always prudent to make requests in writing and to keep copies.
  4. And, if the landlord failed to make a diligent effort to repair within a reasonable time and the tenant delivered a second notice stating that if the problem persisted seven days past receipt, the tenant may terminate the lease, deduct the cost of repair from the next months rent, or sue.

If the repair is of the appropriate kind, and if all four statutory requirements are met, the landlord must repair. If the repairs are not made seven days after the landlord receives the second notice, the tenant may terminate the lease without penalty. The former tenant may then institute a lawsuit seeking to recover:

  1. Any unused portion of that month's rent,
  2. The security deposit,
  3. $500 plus one month's rent,
  4. Actual damages (i.e. moving costs, utility hookup, and other expenses incurred), and
  5. Court costs and attorney's fees.

Alternatively, the tenant may sue without moving. This action may seek:

  1. A court order requiring repair,
  2. A rent reduction retroactive to the first notice,
  3. $500 plus one month's rent,
  4. Actual damages, and
  5. Court costs and attorney's fees.

The tenant can also hire someone to make the repairs. SLS recommends that you first send your landlord a letter requesting repair, please see Request for Repair in our forms section. If, after a reasonable time period has passed, your landlord has not repaired the problem, please contact our office for assistance. Terminating your lease can result in significant liability if done improperly; therefore, we strongly advise you to contact our office before invoking this remedy.

What are the required security devices that must be in my apartment/home?

Generally, a landlord has the duty to equip residential rental dwellings with the following items, even in the absence of a tenant request:

  1. A window latch on each exterior window of the dwelling;
  2. A doorknob lock or keyed dead bolt on each exterior door;
  3. A sliding door pin lock on each exterior sliding glass door of the dwelling;
  4. A sliding door handle latch or a sliding door security bar on each exterior sliding glass door of the dwelling; and
  5. A keyless deadbolt and a door viewer on each exterior door of the dwelling.

The landlord must repair or replace a security device on request or notification by the tenant that the security device is inoperable or in need of repair or replacement. Furthermore, a landlord must comply with tenant requests within a reasonable time. Different time periods are presumed reasonable in particular cases. A landlord's compliance with a tenant's request for rekeying, changing, installing, repairing, or replacing a security device is presumed reasonable if it occurs no later than the seventh day after the date the request is received by the landlord.

Can I break my lease?

Not usually. Unless your landlord has violated Texas law or breached your lease agreement, you are bound by the terms of your lease.

What is the proper procedure for moving out of my apartment?

Failure to provide the proper notice of move-out after the written lease term has expired may result in a month to month tenancy. You should look at the lease prior to termination to see the terms for completion. Customarily, 30 days WRITTEN notice prior to move out is required or the landlord may withhold the security deposit due to your failure to give notice. Do your part to prevent loss of your security deposit. Give 30 days written notice prior to move out. This means that you must give notice to your landlord EVEN THOUGH there is a termination date stated in the lease. Even if you have no written lease, state law requires that you give thirty days notice BEFORE you move out. If you are moving out prior to your lease termination date under a special arrangement with your landlord, then have that arrangement put in writing. Changing a written contract requires that the change be in writing. Give the landlord a forwarding address, in writing, for the return of your security deposit. See Move Out Notice to Landlord/Request for Return of Security Deposit.

Thoroughly Clean the Apartment

Regardless Even if the apartment was not clean when you moved in, it should be when you move out. Also repair, if possible, any damage you caused during your tenancy. Surrender all the keys to the apartment. This is usually done during the final walk-through of the apartment and completion of the move-out form. Once these requirements have been met, your landlord has 30 days to:

  • Return the deposit, or
  • Give you an itemized list of damages to which your deposit was applied and/or partial refund of any deposit which was not applied.

Notary Public

What is a notarization?

A notarization provides evidence that the signer personally appeared before a disinterested witness (the notary). The notary must record the date of the instrument, the date of the notarization, the name and residence of the signer, and how the signer was identified.

What documents are acceptable to verify the signer’s identity?

Current driver’s license, passport or state ID card. Unacceptable documents include: social security cards, credit cards, and student ID cards.

Is an appointment required for a notarization?

No appointment is necessary unless you have more than 5 documents that need to be notarized. SLS provides notary services Monday – Friday, from 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Can a notary make a certified copy of my birth certificate or notarize my I-9 form?

No, Texas notaries are prohibited from the following: notarizing I-9 forms, performing notarizations for someone not personally present, and providing certified copies of recordable documents (documents recorded with a governmental office, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, etc.).

How much does it cost to have a document notarized?

Our notary services are free to TTU/TTUHSC students, parents, staff and faculty members.

Other

How do I get a divorce in Texas?

Texas law requires that you or your spouse live in the state of Texas six months and in the county in which you wish to file in for three months immediately prior to the filing of the divorce. Filing fees of approximately $250.00 must be paid at the time the divorce is filed. The only reason, or "ground", for divorce necessary today is "insupportability" or what is commonly called incompatibility. This "no-fault" divorce can be obtained if either spouse wants it, even if the other spouse does not. The old grounds of cruelty, abandonment, and adultery, although still on the books, are seldom, if ever used. The petition must be on file at least 60 days before the divorce can be finalized. There are no exceptions. Once this time period has passed, the party who filed the divorce MUST appear at the court. Your court appearance will be arranged by your SLS attorney. SLS provides representation to students for uncontested divorces. An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both spouses have agreed to all of the essential terms of the divorce, including, but not limited to division of property, debts and custody of children.

What is mediation?

Mediation is an alternative approach to the traditional methods of resolving disputes. Mediation is a voluntary, confidential, interactive process that enables disputants to work through issues of importance that are causing conflict between them. During a mediation session, an impartial person, the mediator, facilitates communication between the parties to promote reconciliation, settlement or understanding. A mediation session will provide you with a neutral forum to:

  • Discuss and clarify issues that are causing conflict;
  • Express feelings;
  • Discuss interests of each party;
  • Discuss possible solutions; and
  • Work out an agreement to resolve the conflict

What do I do if my Wallet is Lost or Stolen?

Before the crime: Photocopy BOTH sides of everything in your wallet so you will know what was in your wallet. Record all account numbers and phone numbers for your credit and bank accounts. File in a safe place that you can remember. Pilots your SS# is on your license. Some states have this on the driver's license as well. If possible, keep these in a separate place. SLS advises you NOT to carry your Social Security Card with you EVER. Keep a copy of all this info at home and somewhere discreetly in your car.

After the crime

  1. Cancel your credit cards. HURRY.
  2. Call one of the credit bureaus. They will notify the other two automatically.
    Equifax
    P:1-800-525-6285
    Experian
    1-800-397-3742
    Trans Union
    1-800-680-7289
  3. Call the police. Get a report number. You will need this later.
  4. Notify the Social Security Fraud Hotline. 1-800-269-1271. They will direct you to a website to report identity theft.

Can I cancel a contract?

A consumer has the right to cancel some consumer transactions if he contacts the merchant no later than midnight of the third business day after the date the consumer signs an agreement or offer to purchase. This only applies to specific consumer transactions where the merchant or the merchant's agent engages in a personal solicitation of a sale to the consumer at a place other than the merchant's place of business, and the consumer's agreement or offer to purchase is given to the merchant or the merchant's agent at a place other than the merchant's place of business (1) for the purchase of goods or services that exceed $25.00 and for the purchase of real property that exceeds $100.00.